What Makes Change Hard

Life is change. Literally. Without their constant breakdown and renewal of cells our bodies would slowly fall apart. Every second your body recycles 2.5 million red blood cells and produces an equivalent number of new ones. That’s just one out of countless changes taking place in our internal ecosystem every second. External ecosystems, both natural and human-made (organizations, families, communities) mirror that level of constant, dynamic change and renewal even if we aren’t conscious of it.

As coaches, healing arts professionals, advocates and change-makers we’re elbow-deep in the unruly but oh-so-rewarding business of change every day.

And yet, how often do we find our clients – or ourselves – avoiding change rather than working with its natural rhythm?

In her book “Leadership and the New Science” Margaret J. Wheatley points out that our bad attitude toward change is all Sir Isaac Newton’s fault. Newtonian science and Rationalist ways of thinking reduce people, organizations and communities to the status of machines. They view crisis, challenge, or even the disruption of questions heralding a search for meaning as broken parts needing to be fixed rather than as catalysts to personal or organizational transformation.

This way of thinking has us looking at the parts rather than the relationships among the parts. That keeps us from flowing with the changes that nourish our thriving.

To change our own behavior we must explore the relationships among our thoughts, beliefs, assumptions and feelings. We need to shift how we make meaning from simply thinking about things to a richer relational experience of thinking/feeling/sensing.

Let’s say I’d like to stop my morning habit of diving onto social media before writing in my journal. If I’m simply thinking about the issue, just looking at the parts, I might come up with a list of ways to make myself write first.

It might work for a few days but if I don’t sense into the emotional payback, or soul yearnings that feed my habit, I’ll never discover that losing myself in other people’s words and feelings before I listen to my own builds a wall of noise between me and my own creative voice. It gives me a false sense of “productivity” that lets me push my own voice aside for one more day and not have to face the confusing and paradoxical fear mixed with joy that my journaling insights reveal.

“We change only if we decide that the change is meaningful to who we are. Will it help us become who we want to be? Or gain us more of what we think we need to preserve ourselves?” Margaret J. Wheatley.

So, if someone is avoiding change, try diving into what the change means to that person. Consider exploring its relationship with everything else in their inner and outer ecosystem. Check to make sure they are working with the change from their whole thinking/feeling/sensing self. Above all, be kind and patient. Personal evolution is a process.

Tracie Nichols writes poetry and facilitates group writing experiences from under the wide reach of two old Sycamore trees in southeastern Pennsylvania. She is the co-founder of the Embodied Writers writing group and a Transformative Language Artist helping women write themselves home. You can find Tracie on her website.

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